Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
August 17, 2018  (posted August 21, 2018)

Mr. President:  Within a week we have suffered floods in France, Toronto, and now a
record-breaking monsoon season in Kerala, India which has flooded or endangered
12 of its 14 regional areas.  Almost a quarter of a million people are homeless, forcing
them into some 1500 relief camps. Sadly many have lost their lives, the toll in Kerala
and the states of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh rising to 900 -- the rain water
sweeping through villages, bursting irrigation dams and causing mudslides.

Kerala is not the wealthiest state in India; hence, its accomplishments in education
and healthcare are all the more remarkable.  For those who wish to lend a helping
hand, try keralarescue.in or  donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/.

This week Kerala, last week France and Toronto, and in July, Western Japan.  
Exacerbated by global warming, the disasters keep mounting, yet Donald Trump and
other ostriches have steadfastly stuck their heads in the sand.  It's all a hoax they will
continue to repeat as a forest fire begins to singe their rears.  With their luck, a flash
flood might quench it.

Such is the state of our world as the window to act on climate change closes a little
more each day!

After a violent storm in Genoa, a 200-meter section of the Morandi Bridge, part of the
A10 expressway, collapsed including a load-carrying pylon.  Vehicles plunged 50 feet
killing at least 38.  People are blaming shoddy materials in often a mafia-controlled
Italian construction industry amid concerns over a generally crumbling infrastructure.

If the collapse has drawn the attention of other Europeans to their own bridges and
roads, America's infrastructure is worse.  The American Society of Civil Engineers
(ASCE) in its last report (2017) gave it an overall D+ on the American schools'
grading scale that runs from A to F.  Bridges received a C+, not really reassuring for
the trucker driving a 16-wheeler.

Mr. Trump promised us a 'beautiful' infrastructure on the campaign trail.  Not much of
that beauty yet.  The ASCE estimates an expenditure of $206 billion per year for 10
years to set things right -- not really excessive when one considers the
three-and-one-half-times that amount ($717 billion) just approved in the latest
defense spending bill.

Any analysis of U.S. infrastructure would also reveal a serious void:  no high-speed
rail.  It is the only country among major industrial nations, including China, without
such a network.  As rail travel is less polluting than airplanes, this void also stresses
the environment when CO2 levels are already sky high.

Modern high-speed rail will allow overnight travel between the coasts and day trips
between Chicago and New York, attracting the business traveler.  Also the latest
maglev trains floating on a literal cushion of air, may reduce the time further by a third
or more, all without time-consuming trips to and from airports at both ends.

A project to connect San Francisco with Los Angeles supported by Gov. Jerry Brown
and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is underway even if all the
financing is still not in place.  Originally intended to utilize State, Federal and private
financing, it is opposed by President Trump and Congressional Republicans, drying
up Federal funding.  With $30 billion of the necessary $100+ billion in hand, work
continues on the Fresno to San Francisco section in the hope that future elected
officials would find it difficult to abandon an unfinished project with partially
constructed pylons, viaducts and railbeds littering the landscape.

Rationality is less of a problem than a Republican aversion to new
government-funded projects -- in marked contrast to the people's enthusiasm, people
who happily passed the original bond vote to initiate funding for the high-speed rail
project in California.